Severn and Wye get out and about a bit

October has drawn to a close; it is the traditional month of harvesting, curing, salting and turning the excesses of the growing season into chutneys, jams and alcoholic potions to keep us going through the winter. But for us October was a month we got out a bit and met the public.

On the 19th October in London’s Corinthia Hotel the launch party for it’s The Northall Restaurant was held. The cooking is overseen by Garry Hollihead whose modern ‘’British’’ menu is served in luxurious but understated surroundings. The restaurant is in the capable hands of Eric Garnier who has taken charge of the front of house duties. Garry asked if we would serve our own Var salmon and Var gravadlax at the party. It’s always fun to meet the end user and get a positive feedback to our produce. A full room and party atmosphere ensured that a great night was had by all.

The following week it was off to Dartmouth to exhibit at their 3 day food festival. Richard had got Darren, our workshop handyman, to knock up two mobile smoke houses out of two small garden sheds, and with a tank of eels and our mobile BBQ we set off for Dartmouth. The eels were there to promote our “sustainable eel campaign” and highlight our tanks in schools scheme which we are hoping some schools in Dartmouth will subscribe to next year. As far as our “Street Food” efforts went, in the smokers we smoked mackerel fillets, thick slices of Var Salmon and eel fillets which we then finished off on the BBQ together with bubble and squeak and Dartmouth dabbers (smoked coley and spicy potato mash in a spring roll). The food seemed to go down well with everyone and there was a lot of “can I have some more please”. Not having done a food festival before we were not quite sure what we were doing but each day we improved and were flattered - no flabbergasted - to win the award “Best in Show”, (makes us sound like dogs but we are not complaining).

Mark Romans who works in our QA dept but for the weekend doubled up as bubble and squeak sous chef, penned the following ode in tribute of our success.

Call to arms came from Field Marshall Cook,
to “ Tally Ho chaps now lets take a look,
At that jolly food festival, the pride of the south,
Held on the banks at the river Dart’s mouth.”

Of the weather with us we laid out our tools,
Sustainable eels and Elvers in schools.
Var Salmon, Eel Speeks and Mackerel on platters,
Along with the ultimate Dartmouth Fish Dabber.

No time we’d started plying our trade
With our artisan smoke houses, that were clearly homemade
We smoked our fish, and catering for more than a few
Then offered it for sale on our new bbq

Of emotions were evident at the end of day,
When Severn and Wye staff were taken away,
With Richard Cook, who was truly delighted,
To receive the award that’s been clearly highlighted.

As soon as I returned from Dartmouth I was making plans for departure to Valencia in Spain for the ‘Sustainable Eel Group’ Conference. Delegates from Denmark, Sweden, Holland, France, Spain, Germany and the UK were all in attendance. A senior member of the European Commission Fisheries policy committee from Brussels was also present and it was really useful for him to witness us setting out our agenda for the next 6 months and to get his views on our objectives.

We will have a “sustainable eel” standard product for sale in the early part of next year. I am hoping that some chefs will get involved in helping us to promote this product and “standard” in the New Year. Please call me, all those who would like know more or get involved.

In my September newsletter I did bang on a bit about Alex James’s Harvest Festival and his latest rather dubious flavoured cheese offerings. In the press it has now been christened the “Alex James Worstival”. David Cameron and Jeremy Clarkson deemed it worthy of their attendance but Big Wheel Promotions who ran the festival have mysteriously ceased trading leaving many people with unpaid bills. Chefs, stallholders and marquee providers will have to make their money at another festival, but according to Marina Hyde’s Guardian blog post most sympathy should surely go to local Kingham Primary School. It organises its own music festival every year and was asked if it could provide severn musical acts and it is now reported to be £7,000 out of pocket. It seems strange that Alex James (Blur bass guitarist) and Big Wheel Promotions (run by an ex EMI executive) needed a local primary school to book musical acts. This is scandal worthy of the city of London not the Cotswolds.

Every now and again an invitation lands on the desk and you know it’s your duty at all costs to attend. None more so than food journalist Bill Knott’s command for me to be a guest judge at Wright Brothers and Boisdale restaurants’ Oyster Olympics held at Canary Wharf. The object was to find the UK’s best native and pacific oyster. We had over 13 different oysters to judge and after a blind tasting where the oysters were marked on appearance, flavour and minerality the results were as follows:-

Oyster Olympics Results
  Natives Rocks
Gold Loch Ryan (Rossmore Oysters) Poole (Dorset Oysters)
Silver Duchy of Cornwall (Wright Brothers) Maldon Rock (Maldon Oysters)
Bronze Maldon (Maldon Oysters) Portland (Fleet Oyster Farm)

From the 8th November to 1st December all Boisdale and Wright Brothers restaurants will be offering the “six medal plate” at half price during the crazy hour (5-6pm). I have been told to inform you that there will be a limit of 84 oysters per person during crazy hour in the interests of health and safety.

We offer a special welcome to Ceri Criddle who has joined our sales team. Ceri, who used to work at Cotswold Fish and Game, is just beginning to find her feet here and we wish her well.

Salmon farmers have taken a look at their calendars and seen Christmas is just around the corner so we are expecting some pressure on prices in the run up to Christmas, but we will as always be attempting to thwart their advances.

Just read a magazine article and noticed Alex James is described as The Sun’s food columnist, you just can’t make these things up. More news soon.

Dai Francis